Modern gadgets range from kitchen wonders that turn veggies into noodles to veritable computers you can wear on your wrist. For older adults, one of the best uses of gadgets might be to stay in touch with those they love.
Whether you're a resident in an assisted living community like Bethesda Gardens in Arlington, Texas, or an older adult living at home in a community where many people have moved away, staying in touch with others can be as easy as tapping a mobile device. And if you're the family or loved one of an older adult, these gadgets may make a great holiday gift, because they come with the assurance that you want to stay in touch too.
Discover a few gadgets that support communication and staying in touch below.
Smartphones are perhaps the premier device for anyone that wants to maintain communication. First, they're a phone. You can dial a number and connect with someone for a chat anytime and anywhere that you get a good cell signal. That means seniors can make and take calls from their homes, but they can also call trusted friends or family members to get second options or share concerns when they're at the store, doctors' office or other location.
But the communication doesn't stop with phone calls. Smartphones let you keep up with others via a range of apps and features including:
• Text messaging, where you can send texts and images
• Communication apps such as Facebook Messenger and Telegram, that support texts, images and video. Some also support video calling for face-to-face conversations.
• Social media apps, where you can see what other people are up to, share and view pictures and enjoy entertaining posts.
Digital picture frames offer a more passive type of communication and might be a great choice for someone who is uncomfortable with technology and social media. You can get digital picture frames that connect to Wi-Fi. Once the device is set up, the owner doesn’t have to do anything. Anyone with the email for the device can send pictures that are uploaded and show up automatically on the picture frame.
Some of these frames can hold thousands of digital images, and they scroll across the screen, each image showing for some time before it's replaced by a new one.
These devices let family and friends share photos of daily life, outings and important movements with someone else on a regular basis.
Tablets such as iPads and Kindles can do most of what a smartphone does when it comes to communication. You can download social media, texting or video call apps.
Many older adults enjoy using tablets for these types of communications more because the screens are bigger, which means images and text can be easier to engage with. Tablets can also be used as ereaders, to watch videos in bed or for other purposes.
You don't have to go with a mobile device to enjoy staying in touch with others. Computers and laptops do everything a tablet does, and you can even use them to make phone calls.
For both tablets and computers, you do need an internet connection. Residents at Bethesda Gardens assisted living community have access to Wi-Fi throughout the building. And if you aren't sure you want to invest in a computer, you can test out the functionality in our computer center.
Most smartphones, tablets and laptop computers are equipped with webcams. However, depending on the placement of the camera on your computer and how quality the camera is, you may not experience satisfactory results when using it. Investing in a separate webcam can improve those results. It also might help seniors set up a communication station in their home or assisted living apartment that works best for them.
Typically, webcams are an optional gadget for staying in touch. If you need help setting one up, you can often invest in support subscriptions at stores like Best Buy when you buy your device. Other options include calling on family members or friends to assist you, and if you live in an assisted living community, the staff or other residents may be able to help.
Headphones can also be a great optional gadget for supporting communication. For older adults with hearing challenges, headphones help customize the volume and clarity of the audio connection. That can help you hear what other people are saying when you're on a call or video chat.
A phone with a mic helps pick up your side of the conversation clearly so others know what you're saying. And if you're just planning to listen to something, like a voicemail from a friend, headphones let you do so privately even if you're in an area where others are around.
Older adults who want to invest in better communication may want to start with a smartphone and build from there. But with all the modern gadgets available, you'll be able to find options that support your preferences and needs for staying in touch.